It’s the whole nautical feel and hands-on exploration that makes it fun for all ages. I had the pleasure of going to Norwalk Connecticut’s Maritime Aquarium with my kids recently. First, it was surprisingly bigger than I expected. Second, it had the BEST IMAX movie in it that made the trip even more interesting. More about that later.
According to their website, the aquarium has been re-done and is now easier-to-navigate as well as being “spruced up, from the floors and walls to the restrooms, plus new lighting and sound systems.” I don’t know what it was like before, but I can say that I liked it, plain and simple. I think it’s a place anyone within a few hours drive should visit. The main “theme ” here is the Long Island Sound. I liked the various educational elements throughout the museum all about keeping the Sound and local rivers clean and protecting local fish and land. Of course the kids whipped right past most of the educational and informative signs but I read them and tried to read them aloud to the kids so they could learn a bit too.
We happened to be in Norwalk on a sultry 95 degree day and I found the aquarium to be very cooling and relaxing. I imagine it to be a toasty place on a winter day as well. Since we are members at our local aquarium, we know how aquariums are great places to escape the brutal weather and enjoy in any season. And really, what kid doesn’t like finding Nemo at an aquarium?
We started our day playing with the touch screen quizzes in the main lobby. The kids went through all the questions testing their knowledge of the LI sound. After that, we spent about an hour meandering the downstairs where we got to pet stingrays (soft and mushy) and a shark (uh,not soft and mushy in more ways than one) in their large touch tank.
My son particularly loved the room where he could pretend to fish off a boat, complete with play fish. Even my 10 year old got in on the action! There were a few other galleries with all sorts of creatures from crabs and eels, to snakes and sea vases. Have you ever even heard of a sea vase? Interesting stuff in this world we live in huh?
Then we were on to my personal highlight of the day- the IMAX movie! We were advised to see “Born to be Wild,” which I loved loved loved! I felt like I escaped civilization completely for 40 minutes with this engrossing and endearing movie. Alternating between Kenya and the rainforest, between elephants and orangutans, between the efforts of 2 women each heading up a team to take care of rescued orphaned animals until they could be released back into the wild. It was really a display of such devotion and compassion. Seeing how the animals acted in care of the people was amazing- they were like true little human babies seeking comfort and love. It was so touching- my daughter squeezed my hand during the movie (a sure sign she was in love) and both my boys were riveted and not squirming, so that alone says something of the movie. You kinda get lost in the stories and the beautiful scenery on that huge screen. I highly recommend grabbing tickets for this show as soon as you get to the Maritime Aquarium. We actually went back the next day to see another show, “The Last Reef,” which was good but not nearly as riveting as Born to be Wild. My kids wanted to see Tornado Alley and the Sharks one- they do have several choices playing throughout the day.
After the movie, we had lunch in the cafe which had a nice variety. Then we browsed the large gift store, grabbed a birthday present for my son and headed upstairs.
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Upstairs you’ll find more galleries to walk through with some nice large tanks and bigger fish.There’s also room full of funky frogs of all colors, a jellyfish tank that glows and more.
I liked the layout of the aquarium which is pretty easy to navigate. We ended up back downstairs to browse around a little more. My daughter liked the seal show which takes place in the lobby a few times a day-nothing big but fun for most kids to sit and watch seals do some small actions. Another favorite part of our day was outside at the Riverside Exhibits where they have a temporary exhibit of Lorikeets (through september 2nd , 2013). For a few bucks, we bought the cup of Lorikeet food and headed in the room full of these beautiful birds. The kids took turns feeding the birds. They do nip if you try to touch them but it was kinda cool to have them land on our arms to be fed.
Inside there is another special exhibit of meerkats, which features 6 meerkats. My kids whipped through this, not particularly interested, but hey, to each their own.
The aquarium offers cruises once daily also which we didn’t get to take. Nearby is also the ferry to Sheffield Island, which is not associated with the aquarium but I wanted to mention it, since it sounded very nice and along with the nearby Stepping Stones Museum for Children can make for a 2 day trip to Norwalk, as we did.
All in all, fun day at the Maritime Aquarium – a nice escape from the heat and a pretty place to visit. Read more about our adventures the next day at the wonderful Stepping Stones Museum, right down the road from the aquarium.
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